Politics of Sri Lanka

Politics of Sri Lanka takes place in a framework of a semi-presidential representative democratic republic, whereby the President of Sri Lanka is both head of state and head of government, and of a multi-party system. Executive power is exercised by the government. Legislative power is vested in both the government and Parliament. For decades, the party system has been dominated by the socialist Sri Lanka Freedom Party and the conservative United National Party. The Judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature. The Politics of Sri Lanka reflect the historical and political differences between the three main ethnic groups, the majority Sinhala and the minorities Tamils and Muslims, who are concentrated in the north and east of the island.

The Economist Intelligence Unit rated Sri Lanka a "flawed democracy" in 2019.[1]

Executive branchEdit

Main office holders
Office Name Party Since
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna 18 November 2019
Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna 21 November 2019

The President, directly elected for a five-year term, is head of state, head of government, and commander in chief of the armed forces. The election occurs under the India Sri Lankan form of the contingent vote. Responsible to Parliament for the exercise of duties under the constitution and laws, the president may be removed from office by a two-thirds vote of Parliament with the concurrence of the Supreme Court.

The President appoints and heads a cabinet of ministers responsible to Parliament. The President's deputy is the prime minister, who leads the ruling party in Parliament. A parliamentary no-confidence vote requires dissolution of the cabinet and the appointment of a new one by the President.

Legislative branchEdit

The Parliament has 225 members, elected for a five-year term, 196 members elected in multi-seat constituencies and 29 by proportional representation.

The primary modification is that the party that receives the largest number of valid votes in each constituency gains a unique "bonus seat" (see Hickman, 1999). The president may summon, suspend, or end a legislative session and dissolve Parliament any time after it has served for one year. Parliament reserves the power to make all laws. Since its independence in 1948, Sri Lanka has remained a member of the Commonwealth of Nations.

Political parties and electionsEdit

In August 2005, the Supreme Court ruled that Presidential Elections would be held in November 2005, resolving a long-running dispute on the length of President Kumaratunga's term. Mahinda Rajapaksa was nominated the SLFP candidate and former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe UNP candidate. The Election was held on November 17, 2005, and Mahinda Rajapaksa was elected the fifth Executive President of Sri Lanka with a 50.3% of valid votes, compared to Ranil Wickremesinghe's 48.4%. Mahinda Rajapaksa took oath as President on November 19, 2005. Ratnasiri Wickremanayake was appointed the 22nd Prime Minister on November 21, 2005, to fill the post vacated by Mahinda Rajapaksa. He was previously Prime Minister from 2000 until 2001 .

e • d Summary of the 2019 Sri Lankan presidential election[2]
Candidate Party Votes %
Gotabaya Rajapaksa   Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna 6,924,255 52.25%
Sajith Premadasa   New Democratic Front 5,564,239 41.99%
Anura Kumara Dissanayaka   National Movement for People's Power 418,553 3.16%
Mahesh Senanayake National People's Party 49,655 0.37%
M. L. A. M. Hizbullah   Independent 38,814 0.29%
Ariyawansa Dissanayake Democratic United National Front 34,537 0.26%
Ajantha Perera Socialist Party of Sri Lanka 27,572 0.21%
Rohan Pallewatte National Development Front 25,173 0.19%
Siripala Amarasinghe   Independent 15,285 0.12%
Milroy Fernando   Independent 13,641 0.10%
M. K. Shivajilingam   Independent 12,256 0.09%
Battaramulle Seelarathana Jana Setha Peramuna 11,879 0.09%
Ajantha de Zoysa Ruhunu Janatha Peramuna 11,705 0.09%
Anuruddha Polgampola   Independent 10,219 0.08%
Namal Rajapaksa   National Unity Alliance 9,497 0.07%
Jayantha Ketagoda   Independent 9,467 0.07%
Duminda Nagamuwa   Frontline Socialist Party 8,219 0.06%
Aparekke Punnananda   Independent 7,611 0.06%
Subramanium Gunaratnam Our National Front 7,333 0.06%
A. S. P. Liyanage Sri Lanka Labour Party 6,447 0.05%
Piyasiri Wijenayake   Independent 4,636 0.04%
Aruna de Zoysa Democratic National Movement 4,218 0.03%
Rajiva Wijesinha   Independent 4,146 0.03%
Illiyas Idroos Mohamed   Independent 3,987 0.03%
Siritunga Jayasuriya   United Socialist Party 3,944 0.03%
Sarath Keerthirathna   Independent 3,599 0.03%
Sarath Manamendra New Sinhala Heritage 3,380 0.03%
Pani Wijesiriwardene   Socialist Equality Party 3,014 0.02%
Ashoka Wadigamangawa   Independent 2,924 0.02%
A. H. M. Alavi   Independent 2,903 0.02%
Saman Perera Our Power of People Party 2,368 0.02%
Priyantha Edirisinghe Okkoma Wesiyo Okkoma Rajawaru Sanwidhanaya 2,139 0.02%
Samaraweera Weerawanni   Independent 2,067 0.02%
Bedde Gamage Nandimithra   Nava Sama Samaja Party 1,841 0.01%
Samansiri Herath   Independent 976 0.01%
Valid Votes 13,252,499 100.00%
Rejected Votes 135,452 1.01%
Total Polled 13,387,951 83.72%
Registered Electors 15,992,096

Summary of the 2020 Sri Lankan parliamentary election[3][4][5]
Alliances and parties Votes % Seats
District National Total
  6,853,690 59.09% 128 17 145
  2,771,980 23.90% 47 7 54
  327,168 2.82% 9 1 10
  445,958 3.84% 2 1 3
  67,766 0.58% 1 1 2
  Eelam People's Democratic Party 61,464 0.53% 2 0 2
  United National Party (Ranil wing) 249,435 2.15% 0 1 1
67,758 0.58% 0 1 1
Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Pulikal 67,692 0.58% 1 0 1
  Sri Lanka Freedom Party[iv] 66,579 0.57% 1 0 1
Muslim National Alliance 55,981 0.48% 1 0 1
  51,301 0.44% 1 0 1
  All Ceylon Makkal Congress[vi] 43,319 0.37% 1 0 1
  National Congress[i] 39,272 0.34% 1 0 1
  Sri Lanka Muslim Congress[vii] 34,428 0.30% 1 0 1
  Independents 223,622 1.93% 0 0 0
United Peace Alliance 31,054 0.27% 0 0 0
All Lanka Tamil Mahasabha 30,031 0.26% 0 0 0
National Development Front 14,686 0.13% 0 0 0
  Frontline Socialist Party 14,522 0.13% 0 0 0
Social Democratic Party of Tamils 11,464 0.10% 0 0 0
  Tamil United Liberation Front 9,855 0.08% 0 0 0
Socialist Party of Sri Lanka 9,368 0.08% 0 0 0
People's Welfare Front 7,361 0.06% 0 0 0
Sinhalese National Front 5,056 0.04% 0 0 0
  New Democratic Front 4,883 0.04% 0 0 0
United Left Front 4,879 0.04% 0 0 0
Liberal Party of Sri Lanka 4,345 0.04% 0 0 0
National People's Party 3,813 0.03% 0 0 0
Democratic United National Front 3,611 0.03% 0 0 0
National Democratic Front 3,488 0.03% 0 0 0
Sri Lanka Labour Party 3,134 0.03% 0 0 0
  Democratic Left Front 2,964 0.03% 0 0 0
New Sinhala Heritage 1,397 0.01% 0 0 0
  United Socialist Party 1,189 0.01% 0 0 0
Motherland People's Party 1,087 0.01% 0 0 0
  Eelavar Democratic Front 1,035 0.01% 0 0 0
  Socialist Equality Party 780 0.01% 0 0 0
  Lanka Sama Samaja Party[iii] 737 0.01% 0 0 0
All Are Citizens All Are Kings Organization 632 0.01% 0 0 0
  Democratic Unity Alliance 145 0.00% 0 0 0
Valid Votes 11,598,929 100.00% 196 29 225
Rejected Votes 744,373 6.03%
Total Polled 12,343,302 75.89%
Registered Electors 16,263,885

Administrative divisionsEdit

Local government is divided into two parallel structures, the civil service, which dates to colonial times, and the provincial councils, which were established in 1987.

Civil Service StructureEdit

The country is divided into 25 districts, each of which has a district secretary (the GA, or Government Agent) who is appointed. Each district comprises 5–16 divisions, each with a DS, or divisional secretary, again, appointed. At a village level Grama Niladari (Village Officers), Samurdhi Niladari (Development Officers) and agriculture extension officers work for the DSs.

Provincial Council structureEdit

Under the Indo-Sri Lankan Accord of July 1987—and the resulting 13th amendment to the constitution—the Government of Sri Lanka agreed to devolve some authority to the provinces. Provincial councils are directly elected for 5-year terms. The leader of the council majority serves as the province's Chief Minister with a board of ministers; a provincial governor is appointed by the president.

The Provincial Councils have full statute making power with respect to the Provincial Council List, and shared statute making power respect to the Concurrent List. While all matters set out in the Reserved List are under the central government.

Local government structureEdit

Below the provincial level are elected Municipal Councils and Urban Councils, responsible for municipalities and cities respectively, and below this level Pradeshiya Sabhas (village councils), again elected. There are: 18 Municipal Councils: Sri Jayawardanapura Kotte, Kaduwela, Colombo, Kandy, Jaffna, Galle, Matara, Dehiwala-Mount Lavinia, Anuradhapura, Gampaha, Moratuwa, Ratnapura, Kurunegala, Nuwara Eliya, Badulla, Batticaloa, Kalmune, Negombo. 42 Urban Councils: 270 Pradeshiya Sabhas: (The above statistics include the new local government authorities established by the government in January 2006.)

Judicial branchEdit

Sri Lanka's judiciary consists of a Supreme Court, Court of Appeal, High Court, and a number of subordinate courts. Sri Lanka's legal system reflects diverse cultural influences. Criminal law is fundamentally British. Basic civil law is Roman-Dutch, but laws pertaining to marriage, divorce, and inheritance are communal, known as respectively as Kandyan, Thesavalamai (Jaffna Tamil) and Muslim (Roman-Dutch law applies to Low-country Sinhalese, Estate Tamils and others).

Courts of law

Foreign relations of Sri LankaEdit

Sri Lanka generally follows a non-aligned foreign policy but has been seeking closer relations with the United States since December 1977. It participates in multilateral diplomacy, particularly at the United Nations, where it seeks to promote sovereignty, independence, and development in the developing world. Sri Lanka was a founding member of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM). It also is a member of the Commonwealth, the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, Asian Development Bank, and the Colombo Plan. Sri Lanka continues its active participation in the NAM, while also stressing the importance it places on regionalism by playing a strong role in SAARC.

Sri Lanka is member of the IAEA, IBRD, ADB, C, CP, ESCAP, FAO, G-24, G-77, ICAO, ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, Inmarsat, Intelsat, Interpol, IOC, IOM, ISO, ITU, NAM, OAS (observer), OPCW, PCA, SAARC, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UNU, UPU, WCL, WCO, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WToO, WTrO. І

The growing interest of other countries in making their claims to Sri Lanka’s strategic assets has been generating heated discussion among national and international circles. Worth noting, China, India and Japan's involvement in Sri Lankan seaport developments is a direct consequence of the ongoing tussle among these three nations to get a firm foothold in this very strategically located island state of Sri Lanka.[6]

Political pressure groupsEdit

Civil society participation in decision-making and opinion-shaping is very poor in Sri Lanka. Professionals, civil society groups, media etc. do not play a significant role in Sri Lankan politics and, as a result, many aspects of the lives of ordinary citizens are politicized. In addition, the vacuum created by the silence and inactivity of civil society has let in radical groups such as the ethnic/religion-based groups, Trade Unions; and NGOs have taken lead roles as political pressure groups.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ The Economist Intelligence Unit (8 January 2019). "Democracy Index 2019". Economist Intelligence Unit. Retrieved 13 January 2019.
  2. ^ "Presidential Election - 2019: Final Result - All Island". news.lk. Colombo, Sri Lanka: Department of Government Information. Retrieved 17 November 2019.
  3. ^ "2020 Sri Lankan Parliamentary Elections". Rajagiriya, Sri Lanka: Election Commission of Sri Lanka. Retrieved 7 August 2020.
  4. ^ "Parliamentary Election 2020". The Daily Mirror. Colombo, Sri Lanka. Retrieved 7 August 2020.
  5. ^ "Official Election Results Parliamentary Election - 2020 - Sri Lanka". news.lk. Colombo, Sri Lanka: Department of Government Information. Retrieved 7 August 2020.
  6. ^ Weerakoon, Dushni (June 20, 2019). "Rivals Competing over Sri Lanka's Seaports". OpedColumn.News.Blog.


  • Hickman, J. 1999. "Explaining the Two-Party System in Sri Lanka's National Assembly." Contemporary South Asia, Volume 8, Number 1 (March), pp. 29–40 (A detailed description of the effects of the bonus seat provision).
  • James Jupp, Sri Lanka: Third World Democracy, London: Frank Cass and Company, Limited, 1978.

Further readingEdit

  • Robert C. Oberst. "Federalism and Ethnic Conflict in Sri Lanka", Publius, Vol. 18, No. 3, The State of American Federalism, 1987 (Summer, 1988), pp. 175–193

External linksEdit